chapter  15
16 Pages

From resistance to integration: The influence of gender in the corrections work environment

ByMarie L. Griffin

Regardless of changing penal ideologies and the often shifting discourse on punishment, the primary responsibility of correctional organizations remains the control and security of an often difficult and dangerous offender population. It is not surprising then that, historically, the development of the role of prison and jail officer has been one influenced heavily by gender roles. Women’s entry into this occupation was initially the result of conforming to highly sexist stereotypical roles; later efforts toward a more integrated correctional workforce were marked by women’s resistance to such gender stereotyping and the desire to achieve both access and influence within these male-dominated organizations. Today, the prison and jail work environment remains a highly masculinized environment. Women’s experiences as prison and jail officers continue to be influenced by a workplace dynamic that is unique to male-dominated occupations wherein many valued job skills are those related to strength, force, and power. In both prison and jail organizations, women remain a minority at all staff levels and the skills that often are viewed as “essential” to the job are those associated with physical strength and a willingness to use force. As Britton (1997, p. 813) notes, “simply by virtue of being male, they [male officers] are perceived by supervisors, coworkers, and administrators (and perhaps by themselves as well) as more capable of doing their jobs, as ‘real officers’ and thus, by definition, ‘real men.’”